How To Catch Goggle Eyes

If you are on the hunt for sailfish, big kingfish, tuna and dolphin, than you know nothing is more effective than a goggle eye hanging from a kite or slow trolled. Goggle eyes are extremely hardy and will kick for a long time if you treat them well.

To catch Goggle eyes, your best bet is to fish at dark. We have actually caught Goggle eyes during the day on weed lines, but it is very rare as they scatter during the day. Using a sabiki and a good fish finder you can look for Google eyes from 50 feet to 400ft.  An absent moon is your best chance too, so keep an eye on the moon phases.

Have a long sabiki and rod dedicated to catching them. Sometimes you will get into a pod for just 20 minutes and the more hooks you have in the water, the more baits you are going to catch. We like rods as long as 15 feet and sabikis with that many hooks! Sometimes you fish all night and the last 20 minutes of dark is the best.

Don’t Touch The Baits!

Use a dehooker to put your baits in the well. If you grab them, you will remove their protective slime and they won’t be nearly as effective fishing.

Bridle Them!

If you are slow trolling or fishing your baits off the kite, it is best to bridle them. They will swim better and your hook will be better exposed for a better hookup ratio.

Feed Them!

If you are keeping them for days at a time, then feed them. You can use oatmeal or pick up some fish food.

Buy Them?!

Back in the 80s Goggle eyes used to sell for about $40 a dozen. Today they are selling for $80-$100. Is it worth it? Hell ya. All the money and time you put into fishing, having quality bait is the key to catching fish. So many people go fishing with poor quality baits and wonder why they don’t catch anything.  A Goggle Eye Bait Boat is a luxury in your inlet and they take the time and headache out of catching the baits.

Here’s a video of some Goggle eyes we bought from the local bait boat in South Florida. We paid $80 and these baits were in great shape when we got them. We proceeded to catch 3 sailfish that day in a period of 2 hours. We had 2 off the kite and one flat lined on the opposite side of the boat.

Would you rather catch live gogs yourself or buy them? Leave a comment.

Live Pilchards In A Blacked Out Well

We had the opportunity to run around Biscayne Bay this week and we found birds diving all over the place. Luckily we were in the flats boat, because it was low tide and the birds were practically standing on the baits.

Upon getting close we could see the pilchards thick as can be racing away from predators such as barracudas, Jacks, Tarpon and snook.

Using a 3/8 8 foot cast net, we were completely loaded in one throw.

Here is video from inside the well.

What’s The Best Bait For Tarpon?

Tarpon can be some of the most frustrating or exciting fish for inshore anglers. When they are feeding the action can be intense and you have the opportunity to land a fish that can take over an hour.

When they are not feeding, you question your tackle, bait and everything else as to why you just can’t get them to feed.  And then there are some days when they are eating everything you throw at them.

So, what is the best bait to give you the best chances of catching a tarpon.

First of all, you have to pay attention to the seasons and what bait in in the area a certain time of year. For example, in Miami we will get a good shrimp run starting around January, where we can catch fish from 20 pounds to 150 pounds pretty regularly. We do this by matching the hatch and giving them what they are looking for, a nice healthy shrimp.

If we tried to present a mullet or a crab during this time of year, it is pretty rare we would get the same action as we would on a shrimp and most likely would even get skunked. Although expect the unexpected when tarpon fishing!

Here are some of the baits we fish in south florida for tarpon. And remember tarpon are scavengers and can really be caught on just about anything, but here are some of our favorites.

  1. Catching Mullet With Cast Net

    First on the list is your mullet. Florida’s coast gets a fall mullet run each year in which the mullet are super easy to get and the tarpon are right on there tail. For the rest of the year, it is a bit more difficult to catch mullet, but if you can get some, you can be sure that a tarpon will certainly consider it. Cast netting mullet is the only way to go to catch these beautiful baits. Be sure you can throw a cast net using the method.

  2. Shrimp
    During the shrimp runs and in the winter you will find tarpon busting shrimp fast and violently. Shrimp are faster than they appear and make erratic movements to get of the way of a tarpon and other fish. This is why on certain nights you will hear bombs going off as tarpon bust the shrimp that are trying to float by with the tide. Shrimp are great bait for tarpon, because they result in a high hookup ratio with a circle hook. We generally don’t apply the “let er eat” strategy like we do with other live bait. The bigger the shrimp the better and if you call up your local tackle shops, ask them to hand pick the largest and healthiest shrimp available. While fishing, make sure you have a hand light and shrimp net, as a freshly caught shrimp will out fish those tackle shop shrimp any day.
  3. Pinfish
    A pinfish is a great all around and easy bait to get a hold of. They will swim down and a tarpon or snook will inhale these on a jig or circle hook. Highly under rated.
  4. Using A Sabiki To Catch White Bait

    Pilchard and Herrings
    Your typical white bait is always a good choice for a tarpon. Again, these baits have to be extremely healthy for good results as should all your bait. I like to hook them with a small circle hook and freeline them for the hookup. These baits are generally good to fish all year long.

  5. Ballyhoo
    Yep, tarpon eat ballyhoo and also a top secret bait. On the incoming tides in certain inlets like Government Cut, MIami and around the reefs, tarpon will bust these baits at night. You can slow troll them along shadow lines for great results.
  6. Scraps, Filets and Dead Baits
    If you have been to a boat ramp or marina and noticed tarpon eating the scraps, than you realize what scavengers they are. I have done my share of soaking a dead bait or a head of a fish that I caught that day with excellent results.

That is the short list of baits for tarpon. There are many more that will work and the best way to figure out what is working in your area is to observe what the birds are eating. If they are diving on minnows, the tarpon will be eating minnows. No bait is too big or too small for a big tarpon.

Go ahead and leave your comment with your favorite bait to use for tarpon and include your area.

Pinfish for Live Bait

Pinfish are a favorite bait of many saltwater fisherman here in the Florida Keys and throughout many other parts of the country. They are nice hardy baits which many larger predators will eat. They are a staple for many fishing guides because they are usually fairly easy to acquire by either fishing for them, using traps, or casting a net. You can almost always find them as opposed to many other baits which can be seasonal and hard to find at times. They also stay pretty lively without much water flow in bait wells and pens. I’m going to go over how to catch them, how to rig them, and how to keep them alive in this article.

Catching Pinfish

This trap is used to catch pinfish in shallow water mostly.

Here in the Florida Keys pinfish are probably one of the easiest baitfish to find. If you’ve spent any time fishing in the bays and backcountry they actually can be a nuisance since they will often eat your bait shrimp off before other fish have a chance to get it. My favorite way to catch pinfish is by trapping them. You can do it on your own free time or before/after/during a charter or fishing trip. I like to use steel chicken wire traps with 4 doors going into them, and a little float attached to find it. I usually take a 7 lb block of chum and cut it into 5 or 6 even pieces. This is easiest by either letting it thaw a bit and cutting it with a saw or knife, or if you have a hatchet and hammer you can chop it up that way while still frozen (hint: leave it in the box while you cut it this will prevent bits from flying everywhere!)You can also use a few fish carcassess, but I find this takes longer to catch bait with. Just put a piece in the trap and your ready to go! On the edges of the flats is a good place to try to find pinfish.

You may have to let your trap soak anywhere from an hour to 6 hours, depending on the temperature and amount of bait around. Larger traps you may even let sit over night. Generally in colder water it will take longer to thaw and the pinfish will be less active so it will take longer. If your not having success in a certain area, try moving around. Sometimes moving just a few hundred yards away can make a big difference. Pinfish also tend to move around at different times of year, so if something doesn’t work one time don’t think it won’t ever be good. If your trap does have pinfish in it, be careful loading them into the boat and try not to let them stick each other unnecessarily, this beats the baits up and makes them less hardy.

You can also catch pinfish on rod and reel. I suggest using a small tiny bait hook and a small split shot with 10 lb leader/line. Basically just put out a block of chum and either anchor up or drift. We often find them in the bays with grassy bottom, but again on the edges of flats can be a good spot too. Use something like squid for bait that will stay on the hook for a long time. A tiny piece of shrimp will work, but you will be rebaiting a lot. Use a dehooker to avoid poking yourself and to prevent damage from handling the baits. This method is good if your out on the water and don’t want to wait to soak traps. Finally you can also try casting a net. If your anchored or drifting where there are lots of pinfish coming up just toss your net on top of them. Be warned though pinfish will quickly dive to the bottom when they see the net coming so they can be tricky to net, they won’t live very well if your trying to save them for use another day. They also can get caught in the net pretty easily with all the spines. I’d suggest using like 1/4 inch mesh net for them if your trying to net them.

Rigging Pinfish

Pinfish are pretty easy to rig up, just be careful as they are called pinfish for a reason and can poke you if your not careful. One thing you can do is use a pair of scissors to cut their back fins off which makes them easier to grab especially if your trying to get a bait out quickly. They work great live but also can work chopped up as dead bait too. I generally rig them either through the nose or on their back near the tail. You can fish them on almost any kind of rig, but I usually am either using a regular jighead, knocker rig (hook/sinker), or floating on a bobber. I like to use a jig if I am casting them regularly and wanting them to sink down, in this case hooking them through the nose is best as they will stay alive longer. A 1/4 once jig head works nicely for most places though you may want to go heavier in stronger current or with a bigger bait. If I am anchored and just leaving a bait sit out in the rod holder I often use a knocker rig. Here again I generally hook them through the nose as they will live a bit longer and fish more naturally. Finally sometimes we also put them on bobbers or free line them, especially for things such as snook or tarpon. Here again hooking through the nose works perfectly fine, however one trick is to hook them through the back near the tail. This allows the bait to swim away from you, which works especailly well snook fishing near the mangroves as they will swim near the trees. Also you can pull back on your pinfish and it will make him kick really hard which often entices fish as they feel the vibration. However be warned your baits will not last long fishing like this as they are expending much more energy swimming against you, so make sure you have plenty of them. You can try this method while fishing with the jigs or knocker rigs too.

Keeping Pinfish Alive

Pinfish are one of the easiest baitfish to keep alive. They don’t require a whole lot of moving water like pilchards or mullet. As long as your baitwell has an aerator you should be in good shape, if you are really loading up with bait though you may want to run a water pump too. I often keep pinfish in bait pens for later use. These pens often are made out of coated wire and can be made in any size, just make sure your holes are small enough your baits can’t get out. You can find a variety of these on-line or build one yourself. One thing to remember is you don’t want to put too many pinfish in a bait pen. Otherwise they will start eating each other (you’ll notice red marks, red tails, and baits looking ‘beaten up’). You’ll have to figure out this number depending on the size of your pen, but if you notice them eating each other after a few days, then you are over filling. Another nice thing about pinfish is you really don’t have to feed them as long as your not over filling the pen, however if your have baits that are old or beat up you can throw a chunk of chum or fish in once in a while. Actually baits that are beaten up will often get healthier if you feed them a few times.

– Captain Rick Stanczyk is the charter captain of the well known Bud N Mary’s Sportfishing Marina in Islamorada, FL. From backcountry to offshore fishing the Stancyzk family is top notch and and can provide you with the experience of a lifetime.